Broker Check

Monthly Market Commentary - 12/21/23

December 21, 2023

At Landmark Wealth Management Group, it is important that you are well-informed about what is happening in the markets. Here are a few of the key topics of conversation that deserve the most attention this month. If you have any questions or would like to continue the conversation, please reach out.

In their final meeting of 2023, the Federal Reserve signaled a dovish pivot by updating their interest rate projections, indicating multiple rate cuts for both next year and 20251. The updated forecast suggests a lower path for the federal funds rate, with the Federal Reserve expecting multiple rate cuts in 2024, 2025, and 20261. During the press conference, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged potential discussions about rate cuts, leading to a market-friendly tone. The market reacted as if the Fed had eased policy, with the S&P 500 gaining nearly 1.4% and yields on 10-year government bonds falling on the day of the release. Some officials are cautiously optimistic about achieving a potential soft landing, however, Fed Chair Powell cautioned against premature speculation on policy changes as some investors anticipate rate cuts starting as early as next spring2.

The job market, which has shown signs of gradual cooling over the last several months, exceeded expectations in November. Jobs grew by 199,000 as the unemployment rate fell to a four-month low of 3.7%3. However, the rise in average hourly earnings may pose a challenge to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to control inflation. Speaking of the consumer, consumer sentiment sharply improved as inflation expectations fell4. While consumers still face higher prices and a gradually cooling job market – that occasionally shows signs of renewed life – improved sentiment may support continued spending during the holiday season. Overall, consumer attitudes have been volatile throughout the year, with recent improvements possibly influenced by easing gas prices.

In November, retail sales defied expectations by increasing 0.3%5, contrary to the consensus estimate of a 0.1% decline6. This unexpected boost was attributed to lower gasoline prices, enabling consumers to spend more as the holiday shopping season kicked off. Despite the positive sales, concerns linger about consumers' financial health with a notable rise in credit card balances, up more than 10% since the start of the year7. Worries that retail sales are being supported by increased borrowing could mean a post-holiday spending hangover due to rising debts.

The bottom line: The economic landscape reflects a delicate balance between the Federal Reserve's dovish pivot, a resilient, even if gradually cooling, job market, and fluctuating consumer sentiment. The Fed's cautious optimism in a potential soft landing amid improving inflation, together with positive employment figures, would be welcome if it can be maintained. However, challenges and risks persist, particularly in navigating inflation and managing market expectations, which can quickly ripple through stock and bond markets.

Sources:

  1. Federal Reserve
  2. CME FedWatch Tool
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
  4. University of Michigan’s preliminary December Consumer Sentiment survey, http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu/
  5. Retail Sales https://www.census.gov/retail/sales.html
  6. Consensus estimate from Bloomberg’s survey of economists
  7. Credit Card Balances https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CCLACBW027SBOG

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. Landmark Wealth Management Group is an SEC registered investment adviser.   SEC registration does not constitute an endorsement of Landmark Wealth Management Group  by the SEC nor does it indicate that Landmark Wealth Management Group has attained a particular level of skill or ability.  This material prepared by Landmark Wealth Management Group is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as a substitute for personalized investment advice or as a recommendation or solicitation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information presented herein is accurate as of the time it was written. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Landmark Wealth Management Group and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Landmark Wealth Management Group unless a client service agreement is in place  This materials is not intended to serve as personalized tax and/or investment advice since the availability and effectiveness of any strategy is dependent upon your individual facts and circumstances. Landmark Wealth Management Group is not an accounting firm. Please consult with your tax professional regarding your specific tax situation when determining if any of the mentioned strategies are right for you.